Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu said on Thursday that Turkey is planning to re-evaluate a refugee deal that was signed with the European Union last year and may cancel a readmission agreement that allows irregular migrants in Greece to be returned to Turkey in exchange for Syrian refugees hosted in Anatolia.
Speaking during an interview with Kanal 24 on Wednesday, Çavuşoğlu said: “We may cancel the readmission agreement. The EU has been wasting our time on the visa liberalization issue. We are not applying the readmission agreement at the moment, and we are evaluating the refugee deal,” Reuters reported.
Amid heightened tensions with Germany and the Netherlands over the cancellation of campaign rallies by Turkish ministers last week, the Turkish foreign minister’s remarks came just days before the anniversary of the deal, which was signed on March 18 of last year.
In a statement on Tuesday Çavuşoğlu said, “If no visa liberalization is realized, we will take the relevant steps regarding the refugee deal.”
The agreement between Turkey and the EU sets out measures for reducing Europe’s worst migration crisis since World War II, including stepped-up checks by Turkey and the shipping back to Turkish territory of migrants who arrive in Greece.
In return, Turkey is slated to receive benefits including visa-free travel for its citizens to Europe, which in the accord was promised “at the latest” by June 2016. Turkey is also to receive up to the end of 2018 a total of 6 billion euros in financial aid for the over 2.7 million Syrian refugees it is hosting.
Turkey, however, has refused to revise its anti-terror laws, which Brussels insists are not compatible with European justice standards, thus deadlocking the visa liberalization part of the deal.
Following a vote in the European Parliament in favor of freezing membership talks with Turkey last November, Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has also threatened to open the border gates to Europe for millions of Syrian refugees.